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Patrick Mara, ex-council hopeful, tops list of school board challengers

mara.JPG

CORRECTED 10/10

Not all of this campaign season's electoral action will be decided Sept. 14 -- there should be some close races decided Nov. 2 as well, if the list of candidates picking up petitions to get on the General Election ballot is any guide.

The biggest name on that list belongs to Patrick Mara, the 35-year-old consultant who earned fame two years ago by knocking off four-term at-large council member Carol Schwartz in the Republican primary. Mara, however, finished well behind Democrat-turned-Independent Michael A. Brown in the general.

This time, Mara will have the advantage of appearing on a ballot without an "R" next to his name, as he stands to face incumbent Dotti Love Wade in the nonpartisan race. Wade, running with the support of Ward 1 council member Jim Graham, won about 36 percent of the 2008 vote, beating three others on the ballot.

"I always look forward to a good race," said Wade, who says she wants to help complete the board's work implementing new academic, nutrition and disciplinary standards. Mara has been campaigning hard, appearing in the Capital Pride and Palisades parades, distributing cards touting his support for Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, "fair funding" for charter schools and the federally funded voucher program.

Mara gently criticized Wade in an interview this afternoon, saying he'd work to be more visible than the incumbent -- starting by campaigning door to door. "I think by running a real campaign ... you're not only campaigning for yourself but you're educating the citizens of our ward about what the [State Board] does and about education in general. ... There's a lot of misinformation out there."

Also picking up General Election petitions, which were first available Friday: Mark Jones, who is seeking reelection to the Ward 5 board seat, which he won in 2008 with 46 percent of the vote. He's facing a challenge from Darlene Glymph, 48, from the ward's Langston neighborhood.

In Ward 6, two relative unknowns are vying for the seat vacated by Lisa Raymond, who is not running for reelection. Melissa Rohan, a member of the board of Potomac Lighthouse Public Charter School Board of Trustees and executive board member at Jenkins Hill Child Development Center, is well into fundraising for her push -- collecting almost $5,500 as of last month, according to city campaign finance records. Also throwing her hat in the ring is Monica Warren-Jones, who works in affordable housing finance. Warren-Jones, 48, says she recently stepped down from the executive committee of the PTA at the Capitol Hill Cluster School, which her two children attend. She says she's gathered about $4,000 thus far toward her run.

As of Tuesday, no one -- including incumbent Laura McGiffert Slover -- had picked up petitions for the Ward 3 board seat.

Besides the education seats, there is also some at-large council seat action: David Catania, 42, is running for a fourth full term on the council. Richard Urban, 52, is taking direct aim at Catania, challenging him on a family values platform. (He and Catania do have one thing in common: Both are former Republicans. In 2008, Urban was registered as a GOP voter.) And Carolyn Steptoe, 51, has also picked up petitions; a Brookland community activist, she took a high-profile role in opposing the closings of several schools in Ward 5 in 2008.

In other races: Queen Noble of the "S.H.E.R.O." party has picked up petitions to become the District's delegate to Congress, as has independent Allen H. Ritter II. And Jason Anderson is running for mayor as an Independent.

Anderson, 35, owns a media production company and says he's running to "expose some contradictions" that affect working-class and lower-class District residents -- in particular regarding education, poor nutritional options and gentrification issues.

The Anacostia resident is realistic about his chances: "The intent for me is not to win, the intent for me is to find a candidate to support," Anderson says, explaining that he's not happy with the current choices. "I just feel that all of the options have been hand-picked, and we've been given very few options. ... I could be wrong."

Anderson also ran for mayor four years ago; he failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.

CORRECTION, 10/11: Due to an error on my part, I confused Urban with another registered voter. Urban, in fact, has long been registered as a "no party," or independent, voter.

File photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  | July 6, 2010; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010, The District  
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